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The Ancient East 



No. IV 

THE BABYLONIAN CONCEPTION 
OF HEAVEN AND HELL 



DR. ALFRED JEREMIAS 



T^he Ancient East 

Undcy this title is being issued a series of short, popular, 
but thoroughly scientific stiidies, by the leading scholars of 
Germany, setting forth the recent discoveries and investiga- 
tions in Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian History, 
Religion, and Archeology, especially as they bear upon the 
traditional views of early Eastern History. The German 
originals have been appearing during the last eighteen 
months. The Englisli translations made by Miss Jane 
Hutchison have been submitted in eacJt case to the Authors, 
and embody their latest views. Short, helpful bibliographies 
are added. Each study consists of some 64 to 80 pages, 
crown 8vo, and costs Is. sewed, or Is. 6d. clot It. 

The following are issued: 

THE REALMS OF THE EGYPTIAN DEAD. By Pro- 
fessor Alfred Wiedemann. 

THE TELL EL AMARNA PERIOD. By Dr. C Niebuhr. 

THE BABYLONIAN AND THE HEBREW GENESIS. 
By Professor IL Zimmer.n. 

THE BABYLONIAN CONCEPTION OF HEAVEN 
AND HELL. By Dr. Alfred Jeremias. 

THE POPULAR LITERATURE OF EGYPT. By 

Professor Alfred Wiedemann. [Inpreparatioi. 



THE 

BABYLONIAN CONCEPTION 
OF HEAVEN AND HELL 



BY 

ALFRED JEREMIAS, Ph.D. 

PASTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH 

AUTHOR OF " BABYLONISCH-ASSYRISCHEN VORSTELLUNGEN 

VOM LEBEN NACH DEM TODE," 

AND OF THE ARTICLES 

" IZDUBAR," "ISHTAR," ETC., IN ROSCHEr's " LEXICON " 



TRANSLATED BY J. HUTCHISON 



w^ 




LONDON: DAVID NUTT 

57-59 LONG ACRE 

1902 



CONTENTS 



I. Introduction . . . 

II. Death and Burial . 

1. Man's Inevitable Fate 

2. Mourning Customs 

3. Funerary Rites . 

4. Refusal of Funerary Rites 

5. Places of Burial . 

III. The World of the Dead 

1. Place of the Underworld 

2. The River of Death 

3. Representations of Hades 

4. Deities of the Underworld 

5. Demons of the Underworld 

6. The Underworld and Vegetation 



IV. Necromancy 

V. Salvation from 
Return" . 



■The Land without 



PAGE 
I 



5 
II 
12 

14 
16 



19 
19 
20 

23 

25 

27 

28 



31 



VIll 



CONTENTS 



\'I. Journey of Gilgamesh to ''thk Island 
OF THE Blessed " . 

\'II. The Paradise of the First of Mankind 

IN EUIDU ..... 

N'lII. I'ooi) AND W'am.k oi Lni; i\ the Baby 
LONiAN Pakadisi: 

IX. Conclusion : Psychology of the Baby 
LONIAN Conceptions of Hades 



34 



39 



42 



47 



THE BABYLONIAN 

CONCEPTION OF HEAVEN 

AND HELL 

Introduction. 

No consecutive account of the Babylonian religion 
can as yet be given, nor will it for many years 
come within the range of possibilities to achieve 
it. Abundant fragments of Babylonian rehgious 
and mythological literature have indeed been 
brought to light by the excavations of the last 
few years, and by dint of strenuous efforts a 
large proportion has been classified and deci- 
phered. But extending as they do over a period 
of more than three thousand years it is in com- 
paratively few cases that these fragments can be 
set in chronological order. The preservation of 
most of the religious texts known to us is due to 
thecollectingzealof the Assyrian king Asurbanipal 
{668-626 B.C.) at whose command copies of the 
literary monuments of Babylonia were made on 
clay tablets by the royal scribes. Magnificent 

A 



2 INTRODUCTION 

material for the investigation of Babylonian 
thought will be available if, in a happy future, 
the interrupted excavations in the library of 
Nineveh should ever be completed, but as 3'et 
onl}^ a small portion of the contents has been 
recovered and in a greatly damaged condition. 
Even then our knowledge of the Babylonian 
religion would still be lacking in essential data, 
namely the traditionary lore of the temples : this 
it is which would throw light on the histories of 
the different cults. 

In the following pages we have attempted to 
set forth the Bab3'lonian conceptions of a future 
life, but it must be borne in mind that fragmentary 
material on]3f is available for the purpose. When 
once the temple of Nergal at Kutha shall have 
been excavated much more will certainly be 
known regarding Babylonian eschatology than is 
the case at present. Nevertheless it is precisely 
this particular department of the religion that 
lends itself most easily to any attempt at 
systematic representation by us. The sacerdotal 
religion of Babylonia took little heed of the 
next world, presenting in this respect a marked 
contrast to Egyptian thought. The gods of 
Babylonian worship were, on the whole, gods of 
practical life, even Nergal of Kutha being in the 
first place a lord of the living. It was thus left 
to the imagination of the people to brood over 



ISRAEL AND BABYLONIA 3 

thoughts of life after death, and apparently the 
mythological fragments that have been preserved 
restore these somewhat persistent popular con- 
ceptions in their main outlines. 

The reader will be struck by the surpiising 
correspondence between the Babylonian ideas 
concerning death and Hades and Jewish notions 
of the same. The connection of Israel with 
Babylonia was indeed of the closest, and the 
Tell el Amarna tablets have proved that Baby- 
lonian thought had spread over the land of 
Canaan before it was conquered by the Hebrews. 
At the time these were written there stood in 
Jerusalem a temple of the Babylonian Storm-god, 
Ninib. In more than one traditional version of 
the Hebrew stories of patriarchs Babylonia is 
cited as the original home of the people of the 
Bible, and during both Monarchy and Exile 
Babylonian culture played among the Israelites a 
part similar to that played by French culture in 
Germany in the eighteenth century. It would 
seem as though the gloomy conception of life in 
the underworld was the common heritage of 
Babylonians and Israelites from primitive Semitic 
times.* 

* A detailed handling of the existing material with philo- 
logical treatment of the cuneiform documents may be found 
in the author's " Babylonisch-Assyrischen Vorstellungen vom 
Leben nach dem Tode" (Hinrichs, Leipzig), of which a new 
and fully revised edition is in preparation. 



( 4 ) 

Dkatii and Burial. 

To the Babylonian death was the "inevitable," 
"night-like" fate, which "in accordance with 
primaeval law " brings to an end all human glory. 
All his prayers were for long life, old age, and 
terrestrial immortality in his posterity. " Make 
ni}' years to endure like the bricks of Ibarra, 
prolong them into eternity," prayed Nebu- 
chadnezzar. An ancient blessing ran : 

" Anu and Analu in heaven bless him : 
Bel and Beltis in Ekur grant unlo liim the lot of 

(long) life ; 
Ea and Damkina in ocean give unto iiim life of 

long years ! " 

It is told in the legendary story of one of the 
heroes of ancient Babylonia how he found a plant 
the eating of which restored the aged to youth. 
"Dear life" might be lengthened out by conduct 
well-pleasing to the gods. Tiglath Pilesar says of 
his grandfather : " The work of his hands and his 
sacrifices were well pleasing to the gods, and thus 
he attained unto extreme old age." Nabonidos, the 
last Chaldaean-Babylonian king, prays to the Moon- 
god : "Keep me from sin against thy great Godhead, 
and a life of far-off days grant unto me as a gift," 
while for Belsazar, his first born, he prays : 
" Cause the fear of thy sublime godhead to dwell in 
his heart that he consent not to sin ; may he be 



MAN'S INEVITABLE FATE 5 

satisfied with abundance of life!" The formal 
curses at the end of the royal inscriptions show, 
on the other hand, that destruction of posterity 
and sudden death were regarded as punishments 
for offences against gods and men. He who 
should destroy the inscriptions of Tiglath Pilesar 
is threatened as follows : " May the god Ramman 
command that he live not a day longer. Let his 
name and seed be exterminated out of the land." 
" So long as heaven and earth endure be his seed 
destroyed," runs another terrible curse: "his 
name blotted out, his posterity overthrown, may 
his life end in hunger and misery, may his corpse 
be cast out, no burial shall it receive." 

None, however, could ultimately escape the 
fate of death. Sudden and unexpected dawns 
the day " that sets not free." " Life is cut off 
like a reed." " He who at evening is living, in 
the morning he is dead." Many a man dies on a 
day that was not " the day of his fate." The lot, 
the fate of man being determined by the gods in 
the chamber of destiny, hence the day of death 
was known as the " day of fate " ; of one who 
died it was said ''the day of his fate tore him 
away/' but of a suicide : " Terror overpowered 
him, and he went to death by his own will, not 
by that of the gods." No herb grown might be 
the antidote of death ; no spell could avail against 
it. "So long as we build houses," says the 



6 DEATH AND BURIAL 

Babylonian Noah, "so long as we seal (i.e., 
conclude treaties), so long as brothers quarrel, so 
long as there is hatred on earth, so long as rivers 
swell in flood, ... no image (for purposes of 
exorcism ?) will be made of death.'' 

'flTe laments over the lot and doom of death 
are often striking. In one of the religious texts 
from the librar}- of Asurbanipal we read of one 
"the joy of whose heart is the fear of the gods," 
and to whom, nevertheless, " the day is sighing, 
the night weeping, the month wailing, the year 
lamentation: . . . Into dark bonds was I cast; a 
dagger pierced me; the wound was deep; . . . 
in the night it suffered me not to breathe freely 
for a moment ; my joints were torn and loosened; 
on my couch ... as a bull, as a sheep, was I 
wet with my urine; ... no exerciser expelled 
my sickness ; no priest put an end to my in- 
firmity ; no god helped ; none took m}^ hand ; no 
god had compassion on me; no goddess came to 
my side ; the grave was open ; . . . ere I was 
yet dead was tlic funeral dirge due." . . . Then 
at length redemption drew nigh. Another instance 
runs as follows: "Death is the covering of ni}' 
couch ; already have I struck up the lament (lit., 
tones of the flute)." It is in keeping with the 
character of Babylonian mourning that at a certain 
episode in the story of the Flood, Istar " shrieked 
like a woman in travail, because the corpses of 



ISTAR'S JOURNEY IN HADES 7 

mankind filled the sea like fish spawn." "The 
gods wept with her over the Anunaki, the gods 
lay crouched (at the celestial lattice of Anu) ; 
they abode there weeping, their lips firmly 
closed." 

'Again and again the Babylonian legends give 
poetic utterance to the thought that all splendour 
vanishes, all strength fails before the might oi 
death. "The Journey of Istar in Hades" tells 
how life died away on earth when the goddess 
sank into the Underworld^i Even the death 
goddess mourns and "sinks down like a reed 
that is cut through," and says : 

"... instead of bread, earth will I eat, instead of 

wine . . . will I drink, 
for the men will I weep, who leave their wives, 
for the women will I weep, who [turn] from the 

loins of their husbands, 
for the little children will I weep, who before their 

time [make an end ?] 
Go, watchman, open to her the gate. 
Seize her, according to the laws of old." 

For by these laws all adornment must be left 
behind, and naked must man pass into the world 
of the dead. 

The first gate he let her pass ; he divested 
her, taking the great crown from off her head. 

"Wherefore, O ! warder, takest thou the great 
crown from off mv head ? " 



8 DEATH AND BURIAL 

"Enter, lad}', for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The second gate he let her pass ; he divested 
her, taking from her ears the jewels. 

" Wherefore, O ! warder, takest thou from my 
ears the jewels ? " 

" Enter, lady, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The third gate he let her pass ; he divested 
her, taking from off her neck the chain. 

"Wherefore, O! warder, takest thou from off 
ni}^ neck the chain ? " 

" Enter, lady, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The fourth gate he let her pass ; he divested her, 
taking away the ornaments from her bosom. 

"Wherefore, O! warder, takest thou away 
from my bosom the ornaments ? " 

" Enter, lady, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The fifth gate he let her pass ; he divested her, 
taking the jewelled girdle from her loins. 

"Wherefore, O ! warder, takest thou from my 
loins the jewelled girdle ? " 

" Enter, lad}^, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The sixth gate he let her pass ; he divested 
her, taking the bangles from her wrists and 
ankles. 



LAMENT OF GILGAMESH 9 

** Wherefore, O ! warder, takest thou from my 
wrists and ankles the bangles? " 

" Enter, lady, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

The seventh gate he let her pass ; he divested 
her, taking from her body the garment. 

" Wherefore, O ! warder, takest thou from my 
body the garment ? " 

" Enter, lady, for such is the decree of the 
death goddess." 

When it is told further how she was smitten 
with sickness in the eyes, sickness in the loins, 
sickness in the feet, sickness in the heart, sick- 
ness in the head, this is doubtless meant to indi- 
cate ffliat death is the destruction of all the 
senses, and that all that is of the body must fall 
to corruption. 

A passage in the Gilgamesh epic, extremely 
interesting for the history of civilisation and 
usually* interpreted as a lament by Gilgamesh 
over his friend Eabani, runs: "To a temple [no 
more thou goest] in white garments [no more 
thou clothest thyself] . . . with perfumed fat of 
bulls no more thou anointest thyself, so that men 
crowd round thee for the fragrance ; the bow 
thou no longer settest on the ground (to draw it), 

" In his recent translation, however, Jensen takes a different 
view. 



lo DEATH AND BURIAL 

those who were wounded by tlie bow surround 
thee ; the sceptre no more thou carriest in thine 
liand, the spirits of tlie dead ban (?) thee ; bangles 
no more thou putlcst upon thine ankles, no (war-) 
cry raisest thou evermore on earth ; thy wife 
whom thou lovedst thou kissest no more ; thy 
wife whom thou hatedst thou smitest no more ; 
thy daughter whom thou lovedst thou kissest 
no more ; thy daughter whom thou hatedst thou 
smitest no more, the woe of the Underworld hath 
seized upon thee." 

— The misery of death was a special theme of 
song at the rites of mourning for the spring god 
Tammuz (Adonis), who each year sank into the 
world of the dead at the approach of winter. 
One lament for Tammuz recalls to mind the 
gardens and flower-pots used in the Phoenician 
and Greek Adonis cult, the forced growth and 
rapid fading of the plants. It runs: "Thou 
shepherd and lord, spouse of Istar, king of the 
Underworld, king of the dwelling-place of the 
waters ; thou O shepherd art a seed corn that 
drank no water in the furrow, whose germ bore 
no fruit in the field, a young sapling that has not 
been planted by the water course, a sapling, whose 
root has been cut, a plant that drank no water in 
the furrow." In another Tammuz dirge we read : 
" Thou treadest (?) the closed way, the path 
without return . . . he departed, descended to 



FUNERARY RITES ii 

the bosom of the Underworld . . . the Sun-god 
sent him down to the land of the dead, with 
lamentations was he filled on the day when he 
fell into great tribulation, in the month that let 
not his life come to completion, on the path 
where all is at end for man (' that brings the 
children of men to rest,' adds the scribe), to the 
wailing of the deed, he, the hero, to the far off 
invisible land." 

Some little knowledge of Babylonian funeral 
customs can be gained from the scenes and in- 
scriptions. The corpse was preserved by means 
of milk, honey, oil, and salt; it was swathed in 
linen, strewn with spices, and laid on a stone 
bier. In the so-called Hades reliefs the fore- 
arms of the corpse point upward. Wallers, both 
male and female, are in attendance at the funeral, 
lamenting and playing the flute ; the relatives 
are present in " rent garments" or in mourning- 
garb ; libations, incense, dirges, prayers, and 
perhaps animal sacrifices forming part of the 
rites. On the reverse side of an unpublished frag- 
ment from the library of Asurbanipal, the obverse 
of which represents a royal burial, is the inscrip- 
tion : "The wives lamented, the friends replied," 
pointing evidently to the use on such occasions 
of antiphonal singing between men and women. 

The accompanying action and gestures were 



12 DEATH AND BURIAL 

violent as with all Orientals. The mourner wept, 
rent his garments, tore or shaved off his hair, 
cast himself down upon the ground (see Job i. 20) 
scarred his face, beat his loins. In the annals of 
Sargon it is said of a mourning Babylonian : 
" He fell down upon the ground, rent his gar- 
ment, took the razor, broke forth into wailing." 

Babylonians and Assyrians buried their dead ; 
with them as with the Hebrews the burning of the 
corpse, except in case of necessity, was reckoned 
indignity and disgrace. The " vulture stela " 
found in the ruins of Ur of the Chaldees repre- 
sents in one of its reliefs the burial of those slain 
in battle. Kings and great nobles were buried 
in temples and palaces, while the graves of the 
common people lay without the city. The 
ancient Babylonian kingGudea states incidentally 
that he has built the temple according to the 
Number Fifty, and erected within it a mausoleum 
of cedar wood. It would seem, therefore, that 
Babylonian temples like the Egyptian pyramids 
conceal beneath them royal tombs. Another 
majestic place of burial was the palace of 
Sargon I., a king famous in legend; certain of 
the Kassite kings were buried " in the palace of 
Sargon." In the annals of Asurbanipal mention 
is made ot" cemeteries at Babylon, Sippar, and 
Kutha, and Sanherib tells how a flood in the 



OFFERING TO THE DEAD 13 

little river Tebilti liad so disturbed the royal 
tombs in the midst of Nineveh as to lay bare the 
sarcophagi. Great care was lavished on furnish- 
ing the graves of the rich and the great. The 
Assyrian fragment mentioned above (page n) 
describes the funeral ceremonies at the death of 
a king. " In royal oil I laid him, with meet 
solemnity, the gate of his grave, of his place of 
rest have I closed with strong copper and have 
made fast his . . . Vessels of gold and silver, all 
that pertains to the furnishing of the tomb, (also) 
the emblems of his authority which he loved have 
I presented before the Sun god and laid them in 
his grave with the father who begat me. Gifts 
gave I to the princes, to the Anunaki, and to the 
gods who inhabit the earth," i.e., the Underworld. 
Drinking vessels and dishes of food for the dead 
were not only laid with them in the tomb, but 
were also placed upon it. Special care was taken 
to supply the manes of the dead with water to 
drink, and to this end apparently cisterns were 
made in the cemeteries. " If the dead have none 
to care for him," concludes the Twelve Tablet 
epic, " then is he consumed by gnawing hunger, 
vainly he languishes for refreshment ; what is 
cast out on the street that he eats." The 
libations, regularly offered on the anniversary of 
death, formed the most important item in the 
worship of the dead, and the responsibility for 



14 DEATH AND BURIAL 

offering them rested in the first place on the sur- 
viving son. In a deed fixing a boundary any 
man who should remove the boundary stone is 
cursed as follows : " May Ninib, lord of land- 
marks, rob him of his son, the Water-pourer." 
The commemoration day of the dead is called 
"the day of the feast of the dead," "day of dejec- 
tion," "day of lamentatation," "day of mourn- 
ing." The nah jiic priests, or " water pourers," 
performed the libation rites at the graves. "At 
the mourning festival of libations to the manes 
of my royal ancestors," says Asurbanipal, " I put 
on the garments of mourning and bestowed a 
boon on gods and men, on tlie dead and on the 
living." To this is added a penitential prayer 
spoken by the king at the graves of his ancestors. 
In his annals, however, he tells us that to his 
slain enemies he denied the Dirge of the Water- 
pourer. Bloody sacrifices of vengeance were also 
made at the tomb. The same king relates how he 
ordered prisoners of war to be slaughtered near 
to a colossal bull, on the scene of the murder of 
his grandfather Sanherib, as a solemn festival in 
honour of the deceased monarch. 

To be deprived of the prescribed rites of burial 
was regarded as a terrible thing. The curse on 
him who should destroy the sacred inscriptions 
of the Assyrian kings is : " In famine shall his 
life end, his corpse shall be cast out and receive no 



REFUSAL OF FUNERARY RITES 15 

burial." Elsewhere we are told that burial rites 
were refused to a rebel who had committed 
suicide. When conquered foes were to be treated 
with special ignominy the tombs of their 
ancestors were destroyed that the repose of the 
dead within them might be disturbed, and the 
prophecy of Jeremiah (viii. i, cf. Baruch ii. 24) 
that the bones of the Jewish kings, priests, 
prophets, and citizens will be taken from their 
graves and scattered beneath the sun is in strict 
accordance with the cruel war customs of Baby- 
lonians and Assyrians. Asurbanipal tells how 
after the overthrow of Elam he destroyed the 
sanctuaries of the land, and then uncovered and 
ravaged the mausoleums of the kings ; " their 
bones I carried with me to Assyria, unrest laid I 
on their shades, and cut them off from the funerary 
rites of libation." King Sanherib was not satis- 
fied with carrying off by ship the property and 
subjects of Merodachbaladan, he must needs also 
bring out from their mausoleum the bones of that 
unhappy king's predecessors. Again we are told 
how conquered kings, confined in the notorious 
Cage which stood to the east of Nineveh, were 
compelled for the special delectation of the 
populace to break in pieces the bones of their 
ancestors. No wonder many kings chose the 
sites of their tombs in the inaccessible swamps of 
the Euphrates, better to protect their sepulchres 



1 6 DEATH AND BURIAL 

t'roiii piolanation: so says Arrian, and his state- 
ment is supported by the inscriptions. 

It cannot be averred absolutely that any of 
the graves hitherto discovered in Mesopotamia 
are of primitive origin. Certainly the cemeteries 
discovered at Nimrud, Kuyundshik, and Khors- 
abad, are not Assyrian ; as for Babylonian 
cemeteries there is no fixing of their date. In 
some tombs, such for example as the sepulchral 
mound discovered by Taylor among the ruins of 
Ur, the seal cylinders found indicate high 
antiquity. The mounds, which mark the sites of 
ancient cemeteries, have been kept so dry by 
means of careful drainage through clay pipes that 
the vaulting of the tombs and the clay sarco- 
phagi are preserved in perfect condition. The 
tombs of Ur are those for which there is most 
reason to assume an Early Babylonian date. 
These are of two kinds : one type consists of an 
oval cover of clay, something like an inverted 
dish, about seven feet long, five feet high and two 
and a half feet broad ; the other is a brick vault, 
seven feet long, five feet high, and three feet 
broad. Among the skeletons traces have been 
found of linen swathings, and in the tombs 
vessels of clay and copper, some of them contain- 
ing the remains of date kernels. The massive 
cemented urns which were found containing 
remains of skeletons among the ruins of Warka 



cp:meteries 17 

(Erekh) are undoubtedl}' of later date, perluips 
belonging even to tlie Parthian period. 

In 1887 Robert Koldewey, now director of a 
German excavation in the ruins of Babylon, 
chanced, during a short expedition in Surghul 
and El-Hiba (seven hours south-east of Shatra 
in the triangle formed by the Euphrates, Tigris 
and Shat-el-Hai), to discover two cemeteries 
containing dwellings for the dead, and massive 
tombs for the remains of bodies that had been 
burned. Examination of the ashes showed that 
the jewels of the women, the weapons, tools and 
seals of the men, and the playthings of the 
children, had been burned along with their bodies. 
Traces of animal sacrifices and of incense were 
recognised, as well as remains of vessels and 
food for the dead ; there were also clay idols, 
human and animal. The many fountains dis- 
covered among the ruins of the cemetery testify 
to the zeal with which the dead were supplied with 
water for drinking. But these cinerary cemeteries 
are not Ancient Babylonian, as Koldewey would 
have us believe : the ancient Babylonians did not 
burn their dead. 

Important conclusions as to Babylonian prac- 
tices and beliefs in relation to death may be 
expected from the excavations at Niffer (Nippur). 
Observations made in the mounds of Niffer and 
Abu-Habba (Sippar) have shown that these 

E 



i8 THE WOR].l) OF THE DEAD 

ancient cities were divided into three sections : 
the temple quarter, the city of the living and the 
city of the dead. 



The World of Tin-: Dead. 

The specific name for the world of the dead 
was Aralu ; poetically it was known as Kurnugia, 
i.e., irsititni latarat, "land without return," "land 
of the dead," " the far-oflf land." The popular 
fancy conceived this place of the dead after the 
likeness of the tomb. Names such as Kigal, 
"vast (underground) dwelling," Unugi, "dark 
dwelling," designate both tomb and Underworld 
alike. Thus the earliest answer to the question 
" Where dwell the souls of the dead ? " would be, 
" underground," and this explains the hyperbolic 
statements of the royal inscriptions that the 
foundations of their buildings rested on the 
bosom of the Underworld. To this also may be 
traced the description of the scorpion sphinxes, 
of which it is said that their heads reached to the 
vault of heaven and their breasts to beneath 
Aralu. Hence, also, in " Istar's Journey in 
Hades " lament is made that " Istar has gone down 
into the earth (Underworld) and has not re- 
turned." The entrance to this subterranean 
land lay in the west. We shall refer later to an 
exorcism in which the ghost is expressly relegated 



PLACE OF THE UNDERWORLD 19 

to the west that the warder of the Underworld 
may there retain him. Not only was the west 
the region of sunset and therefore of darkness ; 
to the Babylonian it denoted the desert also, and 
for him the desert, as the sea, was alike a place 
of horror. The desert being, indeed, the battle- 
field and playground of demons, it is consistent 
with this view that the goddess Belit-Seri, " the 
lady of the desert," is brought into connection 
with the Underworld. The expression " far 
place," which occurs twice on one of the so-called 
Hades reliefs and is also used in exorcisms ('* Let 
the sickness of the head fly away like a bird to 
the far place and the sick man be committed to 
the gracious hands of his god "), may be under- 
stood as a euphemism for the desert in the west 
as well as for hell. 

The account of the journey of Gilgamesh to 
the "Island of the Blessed" speaks of the 
threatening "floods of death" in the south-east, 
in the Erythraean Sea. Again, in a formula for 
exorcism, the heart of the magician is to be over- 
come by "waters of death." These waters of 
death must have some connection with the "river 
of death " repeatedly mentioned in descriptions of 
the Underworld, and which is occasionally desig- 
nated by the name Khubur. When a priestly 
magician says that he "has held back tiie boat 
and cut off the quay and thus prevented the 



20 THE WORLD OF THE DEAD 

enchantment of the whole world," the allusion is 
undoubtedly to events in the land of ghosts. The 
passage recalls the threat of Istar to shatter the 
Underworld and lead forth the dead into the 
world above to flock with the living. We are 
also reminded of the representation of the goddess 
of Hades on two of the I lades reliefs where the 
monster sails along the river of death kneeling in 
a boat. Considering the inconsistency of all such 
popular fancies it is hardly remarkable that, 
according to the Gilgamesh epic, the "waters of 
death " are in the south-east, though generally 
the entrance to the Underworld was supposed to 
lie in the west. Perhaps it was supposed that 
there were two approaches, one by land in the 
desert, another by the waters of the river of 
death. 

Seven walls, pierced by seven (or according to 
one legend fourteen) gates, surrounded the place 
of the dead, sometimes represented as open 
country, sometimes as a city, sometimes as a 
huge palace, but always described as full of 
countless terrors. The o;iening part of the 
" Journey of Istar in Hades " is well known : 

" Of the land without return, the land [. . .], 
thought Istar, daughter of the moon-god. 
The moon-god's daughter thought . . . 
of the house of darkness, the seat of Irkalla (/>., 
Nergal), 



-'THE HOUSE OF DUST" 21 

ot the house, whence those who enter return not, 
of the path which leads forth, but not back again, 
of the house, wherein he who enters is deprived 

of Hght, 
of the place where dust is their food, and clay 

their nourishment, 
where light they see not, in darkness dwell they, 
where they are clad in garments of wings as 

birds, 
dust lies thick on door and bolt." 

Still worse were the prospects held out to any 
specially unwelcome visitants. The queen of the 
shades says to the messenger from the gods who 
has forced his way into the Underworld: "With 
a great curse I will curse thee ; the food in the 
gutters of the city shall be thy meat, the water in 
the sewers of the city shall be thy drink ; the 
shadows of the wall thy dwelling, a threshold of 
stone thy seat ; . . . shall break down thy 
strength." In another epic fragment this identical 
curse is directed against a captivating hierodulos 
who by her cunning brought bane upon one of 
the heroes. 

The picture of the Underworld at the beginning 
of " Istar's Journey in Hades" is found almost 
word for word in an epic narrative belonging to 
the cycle of Gilgamesh legends ; here, however, 
the continuation is remarkable. " In the house 
of dust, that I have trodden. . . . [there dwell] 
wearers of crowns who ruled the land from of 



22 THE WORLD OF" THE DEAD 

old, there set forth ... of Anu and Ea roasted 
meat, set baked meats [ ] with cold, 

with water from leather bottles ; in the house of 
dust that I tread [dwell] £";///-priests and Lagorii- 
priests, there [dwell] exorcists and magicians, 
there [dwell] the anointed priests of the great 
gods, there dwell [the heroes] Etana and Ner, 
there dwells Erishkigal, queen of the Underw'orld, 
[there dwells] Belit-Seri, the scribe (female) of 
the Underworld bends before her." Then follows 
the account, unfortunatel}^ fragmentary, of what 
happened when the goddess Erishkigal raised 
her head and became aware of the intruder. 
The story certainl^r connects itself with the 
Gilgamesh epic, on the last tablet of which the 
h:ro entreats the ghost of his friend as it rises: 
" Tell me, oh ! my friend, tell me, oh ! my friend, 
w hat the Underworld is like ; tell me." The 
spirit of his friend answers: "1 cannot (?) tell it 
thee my friend, I cannot tell it thee; if I should 
tell thee what it is like ... sit down and weep 
. . ." In the following lines, which alas ! are 
fragmentary, he after all seems disposed to give 
his friend the information: "That wherein the 
heart (on earth) has rejoiced, that below is turned 
to dust." 

In the midst of " the land without return " is a 
palace, whence the gods of Hades exercise their 
rule. A:cordingto the Babylonian Hades legends 



DEITIES OF THE UNDERWORLD 23 

the real power centred in a goddess called Allatu 
{i.e., the " Mighty One "), or Erishkigal {i.e., the 
"Mistress of the Great Place"). She is repre- 
sented in the Hades reliefs as a lion-headed 
monster (perhaps as being the wife of the lion- 
god Nergal), kneeling on a horse in a boat, or — 
without boat — standing upon a horse, snakes in 
her hands and lions sucking at her breasts. The 
concluding portion of theTwelveXablet epic, above 
referred to, says of her: "She who is dark (?), 
she who is dark, mother of Ninazu ; she who 
is dark, whose gleaming shoulders (?) are hidden 
by no garment, whose bosom like to a . . . not 
. . ." This sombre goddess watches over the 
primaeval laws of the Underworld, receives from 
the mouth of the porter the names of fresh 
arrivals, and upon those on whom her wrath falls 
pronounces the great curse. With the help of 
the Anunaki she jealously guards the spring (?) 
of life which is hidden in a certain sanctuary of 
the Underworld, the water of which can ravish 
the dead from her power, as was indeed one day 
about to happen. " Bending before her" stands 
a divine female scribe of the Underworld, of 
whose duties unfortunately we know nothing 
more definite. Among the servants of Erishkigal 
are prominent the often-named " watchman," or 
Chief Porter, and Namtar, the god of pestilence. 
Side by side with Erishkigal reigns, as king of 



2 4 THE WORLD OF THE DEAD 

Hades, Nergal, god of war and pestilence. He is 
known as "lord of the tombs," "lord of the great 
city," " king of the river (of death) " ; and ancient 
Babylonian texts call him "lord of the great 
land," "lord of the land without return." The 
special seat of his cult, the Babylonian city 
Kutha, became so closely identified with concep- 
tions of Hades that in poetry the Underworld is 
actually called " Kutha." His temple in Kutha 
was regarded as the likeness of Hades, just as 
other temples were supposed to be in the likeness 
of the heavenly abodes of the gods worshipped in 
them. Among the clay tablets of Tell el Amarna 
is a Babylonian poem vividly describing the 
marriage of Erishkigal and Nergal. In some of 
its features the story recalls the Greek legend of 
Persephone : " Once when the gods were about to 
prepare a feast they sent a messenger to their 
sister Erishkigal to say to her, * We must certainly 
descend to thee ; if thou wilt not ascend to us, 
send one to receive thy portion of the feast. 
Then Erishkigal sent Namtar, her servant." 
From further fragments of the story we learn 
that Nergal himself set out for the Underworld 
with twice seven assistants, bearing such names 
as Lightning, Fever, Fervent Heat, &c. The 
servants of Nergal were placed at the fourteen 
gates of the Underworld, and imperiously he 
ordered the watchman to admit them. Then in 



DEMONS OF THE UNDERWORLD 25 

conclusion we read, " Within the house he seized 
Erishkigal by the hair, bent her down from the 
throne to the ground in order to cut off her 
head. ' Slay me not, my brother, I have some- 
what to say to thee.' Hearing this Nergal stayed 
his hand. She wept and sobbed (?) 'Thou shalt 
be my husband, I will be thy wife, I will give 
thee dominion in the vast Underworld ; I will 
give into thine hands the tablet of wisdom, thou 
shalt be lord, I will be queen.' When Nergal 
heard this he seized her, kissed her, wiped away 
her tears and said : ' What thou ever askedst of 
me long months ago until now. . . .' " 

In the train of Nergal, who himself was dreaded 
as the the god of pestilence (in this character 
known as Urragal), appear all evil spirits and 
demons. These demons were regarded as the 
offspring of Hades and said to be born in 
the west on the mountain of sunset, that is, they 
were supposed to exercise their activities by 
night. When the sun comes forth from the 
mountains on the east — says a poetical magic 
formula — and all the gods assemble in presence 
of the Sun-god, then the rays of the sun drive 
away the spectres. Elsewhere we are told that 
they exerted their evil powers from the desert ; 
the desert which, lay in the west of Babylonia, 
being supposed, as already noted, to be in close 
connection with the Underworld. "They shall 



26 THE WORLD OF THE DEAD 

withdraw afar, they shall retire from tlie city and 
descend into the earth (the Underworld)," says 
the exorcist. These demons of Hades were 
imagined as blood-devouring, blood-sucking 
monsters, not sparing even the images of the 
gods. Like serpents they glided into houses. 
"They take away the wife from her husband, 
tear the child from his father's bosom, drive the 
master away from his household." "From land 
to land they go, driving the maidens from their 
chambers, the son they lead away from the house 
of his parents-in-law, they drive the child from 
his father's house, they snatch the doves from 
the dove-cot, the bird out of its nest, they drive 
the swallows from their nests. They smite the 
oxen, they smite the lambs ; mighty spirits (?), 
evil demons, hunters -are they." " In the pastures 
they attack the folds, they bring sickness into the 
stalls of the horses, they fill the mouth of the 
asses with dust, they bring trouble into the stable 
of the she-asses." Almost every part of the 
body was threatened by its own special demon. 
Ashakkti brought fever to the brain, Namtar 
threatened life with pestilence, Utukku attacked 
the throat, Alu the chest, EkiniDiu the loins, 
Rahiszii the skin. Labartu was the nightmare, 
Labaszu epilepsy, while Liln and Lilit, spirits 
known also to Jewish superstition, brought 
infirmities of the night. The words of Rev. 



1 



GODS OF FERTILITY 27 

xviii. 2 are in exact accordance with fact as 
regards the Babylonian dread of spirits : " Babylon 
the great is become a habitation of devils, and a 
hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every 
unclean and hateful bird." Specially dreaded, as 
we have seen, were the sepulchral Utukku and 
Ekimmu, the ghosts of the dead. "They pene- 
trate into the houses, seize upon man and cast 
him down in the night." There were many 
means of exorcism of which the most effective 
was to draw a picture of the demon and solemnly 
burn it. Of death alone no image could be made 
for this purpose. In a religious text occurs the 
passage : 

" High hold I the torch, put in the fire the images 
of Uttiiku, of Shedit, of Rabiszu, of Ekimniu, 
of Labartu, of Labassit, of Akhkhazii, 
of Lilti, of Lilitn, of the maidservant of Lilit, 
of every foe that seizes on mankind . . . 
your smoke rise up to heaven, 
may sparks conceal the sun, 
your spells be broken by the priest, the son t)f 
the god Ea." 

For the student of comparative religion the 
fact is specially noteworthy that among the 
Babylonians also the gods of the Underworld 
were closely allied with those of fertility and 
agriculture. The growth and decay of vegetation 
was brought into connection with the Underworld. 



28 NIX'ROMANCV 

This is shown in tlic worsliip of Taniiiniz and in 
the invocations to the field-god Enmeshara. One 
of these invocations says: "Lord of the Under- 
world, sublime in Aralu (a name for Hades), lord 
of the place and of the land without return, 
mountain of the Anunaki, . . . great lord ; without 
Ningirsu (god of agriculture) there is no success 
in field or watercourse and no germ is fertile ! " 
The giant Eabani also, who, in the Gilgamesh 
epic, descends to the Underworld, is a god of the 
tilled fields (in this respect recalling Pan), and the 
hero Ner, who figures in one of the representa- 
tions of the Underworld among the dwellers in 
Hades, is certainly identical with the field-god 
bearing the same name. 

Necromancy. 

Among the magic arts of the Babylonian priests 
necromancy undoubtedly held a prominent place. 
A series of mythological texts shows that scenes 
such as that between Saul and the witch of Endor 
were familiar to Babylonian fancy also. Among 
the lists of the various orders of piiests we find 
the offices of " Exorcist of the spirits of the dead,'' 
the priest "who raises the spirit of the dead," and 
the Sha'i/u, the "enquirer of the dead." 

The literature so far known to us has no 
example of the " enquiring of the dead." On the 



INVOCATION OF SPIRIT OF EABANI 29 

other hand, the ceremony for the raising of spirits 
seems to be described in the concluding lines of 
" Istar's Journey in Hades," though the exact 
meaning remains indeed somewhat doubtful. It 
is there stated in conclusion that at the feast of 
Tammuz the dead shall arise and breathe the 
fragrance of sacrifice. It may be concluded from 
this that the feast of Tammuz was celebrated by 
solemn invocations of the dead. 

At the close of the Gilgamesh epic there is an 
instance of how such invocation was actually 
practised. On returning from his ancestor, Gil- 
gamesh with his companion held solemn lamenta- 
tion over his friend Eabani, who " verily has 
sunk down to the shades." '* Every twenty miles 
they intoned the dirge (?), every thirty miles they 
held a festival in honour of the dead." With his 
dirge he went from one temple to another com- 
plaining that no evil malady had consumed his 
friend, that he had not fallen in the field of battle 
among men, but that the world of the dead had 
snatched him away. At last he turned to the god 
of the Underworld himself, to the " hero and 
lord " Nergal. Ea said to him, " ' Knock at the 
chamber of the tomb (?) [open the earth that the 
spirit of Eabani may come forth from the Under- 
world].' [When] the hero Nergal heard this he 
knocked at the chamber of the tomb (?), opened 
the Underworld, and straightway let the spirit of 



30 NECROMANCY 

Eabani go fortli from out the earth Ukc a breath 
of wind." * 

Thus then the ghosts of the dead were raised, 
but to rid oneself of ghosts that had been raised 
or tliat had escaped may well have appeared a 
more difficult matter. " I will raise the dead 
that they eat and live ; more than the living shall 
the dead be," says Istar, To the Babylonians 
this was a terrible threat, for by them the shades 
from the Underworld were regarded as among the 
most malignant of evil demons. In one exorcism 
a sick man complains that the wizard and the 
witch have delivered him into the hands of a 
wandering ghost, and again the sufifering of a 
man grievously ill is accounted for by the state- 
ment "the wicked ghost has come forth" {i.e., 
from the Underworld). A collection of prayers 
of the time of Asurbanipal includes the prayer of 
a man possessed by a ghost. Complaint is made 
that the ghost will not loose his hold of the sick 
man day or night, so that his hair stands on end 
and his limbs are as if paralysed. The Sun god 
is entreated to free him from this demon, whether 
it be the shade of one of the family or that of 
some murdered man that is oppressing his being. 

* This exorcism and indeed the whole Babylonian concep- 
tion of the Underworld recalls the eleventh book of the 
" Odyssey," where the spirits of the dead are called by night 
to the Cimmerian shore, and wing their flight up to earth. 



BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY 31 

The sufferer has ah-eady bestowed on his tor- 
mentor clothes and shoes and a girdle, as well as 
a water skin and food for his departing journey. 
Now let him go to the West, to the Underworld, 
and there may the god Nedu, the gate-keeper of 
Hades, retain him fast that he escape no more. 

Salvation from the *' Land without Return," 

In the light of the foregoing statements it can 
hardly be doubted that the Babylonians believed 
in personal immortality. The body decays in the 
grave {shalamtu is the name given to the corpse, 
that is to say, " that which is done with "), but 
the soul lives in the gloom of Hades, and in that 
abode of horror leads an immaterial, shadow-like 
existence. Their thoughts, however, took a 
further flight and conceived of a brighter fate. 
Diogenes Laertius appears to have been correctly 
informed in ascribing to the Babylonian schools of 
philosophy (or rather schools of the priests) a 
belief not only in immortality, but also to a 
certain extent in a resurrection.* We have 

* The attention of the English reader is drawn to the fact, 
that according to Jensen's recent translation of the Gilgamesh 
epic, the Babylonian priests distinctly taught the doctrine of 
a resurrection, giving instances of its occurrence in order to 
strengthen the belief in a future life. Though the English 
edition of this pamphlet appears later than the German, it 
does not deal with Jensen's general conclusions. 



32 "'II 11, l.AND WirilOUr RETURN" 

already seen that to the gods of heaven was 
attributed the power in certain cases to shatter 
tlic wliole realm of the dead, and also that in 
isolated instances the spirit of a dead man might 
be brought forth. The narrator of the "Journey 
of Istar in Hades," indicates in the mystic con- 
cluding lines of the poem what his auditor must 
do " if deliverance is refused," and earlier in the 
epic we are told how the goddess Istar herself is 
set free after the porter has been forced to sprinkle 
her with the " water of life." In the " eternal 
palace," however, the inmost sanctuary of the 
Underworld, there is a spring (?) of the water of 
life, guarded, apparently, by the Anunaki, already 
known to us as demons of the sepulchral world. 
Only indeed by violence and with the help of a 
special word of power of the god Ea can this water 
be reached. It was owing to the feast of Tammuz, 
who was condemned " to weep year after year," 
and whose return from the Underworld was cele- 
brated annually, that the idea of deliverance from 
Hades had become one of the most widely diffused 
notions in the popular mind. The fact also that 
a whole series of divinities are distinguished by 
the epithet " raiser of the dead," is connected with 
the same order of ideas. It is, indeed, the Sun 
and Spring gods especially that are said to love 
to wake the dead. The statement was, there- 
fore, due in the first place to experience of the 



"THE RAISER OF THE DEAD" 33 

renewal of nature in spring, though sometimes it 
was apphed in a manner that cannot be misunder- 
stood to the hope of mankind. Of Samas, the 
Sun god, it is said, " to make the dead hve, to 
free the captive lies in thy hand." The god Nebo 
is praised as he " who lengthens the days of life 
and raises the dead." But above all it is Marduk, 
god of the Early Sun and of the Spring Sun who 
is spoken of as " the compassionate one, whose 
joy is in raising the dead," or simply — as on the 
last of the creation tablets — as " the raiser of the 
dead." In a charm against demons and sickness 
he is hailed as follows : " Thou compassionate 
one among the gods, thou compassionate one, 
thou who lovest to raise the dead, Marduk, king 
of heaven and earth, king of Babylon, lord of 
Esagila, king of Ezida, lord of the mighty house 
of life, heaven and earth are thine, the space 01 
heaven and earth is thine, exorcism of life is 
thine, the saliva of life is thine, the pure exorcism 
of the ocean is thine, blaclv-haired mankind, living 
creatureS; as many as dwell on the earth, all the 
quarters of heaven, all spirits in heaven and earth 
[turn ?] their ears to thee ; thou art Shedii, thou 
art Lamasu (the spirit of protection and blessing), 
thou makest alive, thou bringest to peace, thou 
art the compassionate one among the gods . . . 
to thee will I devote myself." Cyrus caused it 
to be said of himself, after he had taken Babylon, 

c 



34 THE JOURNEY OF GILGAMESH 

the city of Marduk, that the inliabitants with one 
accord hailed him joyfully and greeted him with 
beaming countenances as " the lord who in the 
strength of him who calls the dead to life 
{i.e.., Marduk), had blessed them all with care 
and protection." The same power of " raising 
the dead " is attributed to Gula, the wife of 
Marduk, who moreover is called " the lad}^ raiser 
of the dead," and once mention is made of "the 
ship of the goddess Gula, the raiser of the dead." 
Curiously enough among the many theophoric 
proper names embodying divine epithets attri- 
buting life-giving power to a deity, there appears 
the name " Nergaluballith," i.e., Nergal (god of 
Hades) makes alive." 

The Journly of Gilgamesh to the Island of 
THE Blessed, 

The Twelve Tablet epic has also come down 
to us in fragments only. Wc know, however, 
that the hero of the story had, along with his 
gigantic friend, incurred the wrath and vengeance 
of the mighty goddess Istar. Eabani had died 
an ignominious death and gone down to Hades. 
Gilgamesh was smitten by terrible sickness, but 
was resolved not to die like his friend. Seized 
by the fear of death he fell wailing to the ground, 
but suddenly he conceived the bold resolve to 



THE ENCHANTED GARDEN 35 

hasten with all speed to his great ancestor, who 
had once dwelt in Suripak, but who had attained 
" the longed-for life in the assembly of the gods." 
Of him will he seek healing, find out the secret of 
immortality and also prepare the way for the 
deliverance of his friend Eabani. For this 
ancestor, as Gilgamesh tells us later, has the 
power to interpret life and death. The skin-clad 
wanderer travels far through awful ravines, and 
after manifold dangers from which the moon-god 
protects him, at length he reaches Mount Mashu. 
The entrance to the mountain is guarded by 
scorpion men of giant stature, whose wild appear- 
ance inspires him with such fear and horror that 
he loses consciousness. One of the monsters tries 
to dissuade him from the terrible journey, telling 
him that he must travel twelve miles through 
impenetrable darkness. At length, in response 
to his importunity, he opens the mountain door, 
and, after four-and-twenty hours of wandering, 
Gilgamesh stepped out into an enchanted garden, 
in which especially one divine tree so delighted 
him that he rushed up to it : " Precious stones it 
bears as fruit — the branches were hung with them, 
lapis lazuli it bears, fruits it bears, choice (?) 
to look upon." A divine mermaid, dwelhng 
in a palace by the shore, put fresh difficulties 
before him. With threats and entreaties he 
sought to move her to show him the way to his 



36 THE JOURNEY OF GILGAMESH 

progenitor and to give hi in a boat in which to 
cross tlie water. The mermaid warned him that 
never had ferry been there and that the Sun god 
only could cross the sea, for the waters of death 
are as a bolt shot to, barring all entrance to the 
Island of the Blessed. At length she betrayed to 
him where he might find the man who had ferried 
his ancestor across. Him Gilgamcsh succeeded 
in persuading to his will, and after a terrible 
journey, minutely prepared for in advance, they 
reached the Waters of Death, having covered a 
distance of forty-five days' travel in three days. 
After exhausting work at the oars had brought 
them across these waters also, they approached 
the shores of the Fields of the Blessed. From 
the boat Gilgamesh complained to his ancestor of 
his woe, related his heroic adventures, bewailed 
the death of his friend and told how he had 
toiled over lands and mountains and had traversed 
all the seas without being able to cheer his 
countenance by any happy sight. After a long 
conversation discussing the inevitable and invin- 
cible mortal fate of man, Gilgamcsh comes to his 
point and asks his ancestor how he had attained 
to his own happy lot. Then this favourite of the 
gods — no other than the Babylonian Noah — tells 
Gilgamesh, as he listens from his boat, the story 
of the Flood, which, as is well known,, coincides 
in parts almost verbally with the biblical narrative 



( 



THE MAGIC PLANT 37 

of the Deluge, but concludes with the removal of 
the rescued couple to a distant land, at the mouth 
of the rivers, where they live as the gods. After 
this tale Sit-napishtim {i.e., "Germ of Life") 
promises Gilgamesh "the life that he strives 
after." He cast him into a sleep, with the help 
of his wife prepared for him enchanted food and 
treated him by seven magic processes. Then he 
caused his ferryman to take him to the enchanted 
fountain, where his boils were washed pure as 
snow, the sea carried away his leprous skin, and 
his whole body once more appeared sound and 
healthy. Before he returned there was revealed 
to him yet another particular secret, namely, that 
a magic plant grew on the island, the twigs ot 
which gave secret power to men : whoever ate ot 
it regained the strength of his youth. Gilgamesh 
got possession of the magic plant and in his joy 
named it shcbii-issakhir-amclu, i.e., " even when 
old a man becomes young again." Then Gilgamesh 
went back (by another route ?) accompanied by 
the ferryman. Every twenty miles they chanted 
a dirge, every thirty miles they held a feast in 
honour of the dead. Whilst Gilgamesh was 
drawing water (for purposes of libation ?) from a 
spring the magic plant slipped IVom his grasp and 
a serpent known as the " earth lion " seized it 
from him. In his terror at first he uttered a 
curse, then he sat down and wept^ tears flowed 



3S THE TOURNEY OF GILGAMESH 

over his checks. He said to his companion : 
" To what end has my strength been renewed, to 
what end does my soul rejoice in its restoration ? 
No benefit have I done to myself, to the earth 
lion is the benefit fallen." With dirges they 
wandered on till they came to the city of Erekh. 
For the present cuneiform literature unfortu- 
nately tells us no more about this Island of the 
Blessed which so vividly calls to mind the Greek 
garden of the gods, Elysium, that Paradise in the 
western ocean where rose the springs of nectar 
and ambrosia. Neither do we hear of any other 
inhabitants of it, though it can hardly be supposed 
that the couple rescued from the Flood and their 
ferryman dwelt there entirely alone. It is, 
indeed, expressly stated that they lived "in the 
assembly of the gods." Thither fancy transferred 
other heroes of the people. Olympus was merged 
with Elysium by the Babylonians as later by tlie 
Greeks. Tiglath Pilesar expresses a hope that 
the great gods " have called the race of his priest- 
liood to a dwelling-place on the mount of the 
gods for ever." According to the Gilgamesh epic 
he "who had fallen in battle with men" can 
claim a privileged lot after death. We are re- 
minded of Walhalla when, at the close of the 
same epic, we read of the fate of the fallen as 
follows : 



THE PARADISE IN ERIDU 39 

" On a pillow reposeth 
drinking pure water, 
he who was slain in battle ; 
his father and his mother hold his head, 
and his wife [kneeleth] by his side (?)." 

It is, perhaps, in a similar connection that 
we must interpret the close of a hymn, which 
runs : 

" Glimmering water brought he in," 
Ninzadim, the great jeweller of Anu, 
has to the care of his pure hands taken thee ; 
Ea hath taken thee hence to the place of cleansing, 
to the place of cleansing hath he taken thee 
to (?) milk and honey he took thee, 
water of exorcism placed he in thy mouth, 
thy mouth he openeth by means of exorcism : 

" Be clear as the heaven, be pure as the earth shine 
like the innermost part of heaven " 



The Paradise of the First Created of 
Mankind in Eridu. 

"At the mouth of the rivers," i.e., where the 
Tigris and the Euphrates once flowed separately 
into the sea, Gilgamesh sought and found the 
entrance to the Island of the Blessed : " at the 
mouth of the rivers " also, holy water was pro- 
cured for use in exorcism. Near this spot lay 
Eridu (the modern Abu-Shahrein, the Rata of 
the Ptolemies), the city of the cult of Ea, chief 



40 THE PARADISE IN ERIDU 

magician among the gods. The enchantment of 
Eridu plays a prominent part in the magical 
literature of the Babylonians. Now the mytho- 
logy of the Gilganiesh epic points in many ways 
to the neiglibourhood of Eridu and the activity 
of Ea, who, however, had temples also in Erckh 
and Surippak the actual scenes of the epic. " At 
the mouth of the rivers " must be sought likewise 
the garden of the gods where grew tlie enchanted 
tree bearing precious stones as fruit, and near to 
it the palace of the sea maiden who guarded the 
ferry over the Waters of Death. Close by dwelt 
the ferryman who took Gilgamesh across the 
water, led him to the fountain of healing and 
helped him to pluck the twigs from the tree of 
life. The ferryman, moreover, is called Arad-Ea, 
i.e., " servant of Ea." It was Ea also who had 
rescued the hero's ancestor and his wife from the 
Flood. He must also have taken some part in 
the creation of the giant Eabani who had helped 
Gilgamesh in his exploits, for the name Eabani 
means " Ea creates." The miraculous healing 
to be found on the Island of the Blessed is 
another reference to the magic of the priests of 
Ea in Eridu. 

These considerations have been advanced in 
detail because it will be seen that Eridu itself (or 
rather its cosmic archetype, all the great cities 
and temples of Babylonia having corresponding 



CREATION OF ADAPA 41 

cosmic originals (see page 24)) is represented as 
a kind of Paradise. At the conclusion of a spell 
in which the god of fire calls to his help Ea, the 
wise son of Eridu, we read : 

" In Eridu grows a dusky palm in a pure place, 
its growth is superb, like lapis lazuli, it overshadows 

the ocean ; 
the sojourn of Ea is in Eridu, overflowing with 

plenty, 
his dwelling is the place of the Underworld, 
his dwelling is the couch of the goddess Ba-u ; 
within the splendid house, shady as the forest, none 

may enter." 

An epical fragment lately discovered shows 
this Sanctuary of Eridu to have been the scene 
of the creation of Adapa by the god Ea. The 
account of the very act of creation has unfortu- 
nately not been preserved, but from similar 
descriptions in other specimens of cuneiform 
literature we are justified in assuming that Ea, 
the divine " potter," moulded his creature out of 
clay. Our fragment tells us that the god granted 
Adapa "divine authority, great discernment to 
order the laws of the land " ; that he gave him 
wisdom — but did not give him everlasting life — 
and that he made him " the mighty one, the child 
of Eridu, to be the shepherd (?) of man." Further 
we learn that he was entrusted with various 
priestly functions and that he acted as baker and 



42 I'OOl) AND WATER OF LIFE 

cup-bearer to the gods. With the baker of Eridu 
he superintended the baking, daily he provided 
Eridu with bread and water, with his own pure 
hand he attended to the platters, no platter was 
made ready without him, daily he embarked on 
his boat and went fishing for Eridu; when Ea 
stretched himself on his couch Adapa departed 
from Eridu and sailed about all night catching 
fish. From the fragments that relate the subse- 
quent fate of Adapa we learn that Anu had been 
considering how the gift of eternal life could be 
given to this being who is in one passage distinctly 
called " Germ of mankind." With this episode 
we shall deal in the following section. 



Food of Life and Water of Life in the 
Babyeo.man Paradise. 

The epic fragments discovered at Tell el Amarna 
relate how Adapa was summoned before the throne 
of Anu, god of heaven, to answer for a deed of 
violence committed against the bird Zu, i.e., the 
incarnation of the South wind. Ann's wrath 
being appeased he commanded a feast to be pre- 
pared for Adapa and festal raiment and oil for 
anointing to be given him. Garments and oil he 
accepted, but meat and drink he refused, for Ea 
had warned him : " When thou comest into the 



BABYLONIAN NECTAR AND AMBROSIA 43 

presence of Anu food of death will be otfered thee, 
eat not thereof ! Water of death will be offered 
thee, drink not thereof! " But lo ! it was indeed 
food of life and water of life ! Anu was filled 
with amazement. He had purposed that the man 
to whom his creator had revealed the inmost things 
of heaven and earth {i.e., had bestowed on him 
the highest wisdom) should receive also the gift 
of immortality. By his refusal Adapa had de- 
frauded himself of this gift. Therefore Anu 
commanded, " Take him and bring him back to 
his earth." 

In this narrative food of life and water of life 
are supposed to be in the palace of the god of 
heaven. This also is a similar conception to that 
of Olympus and the Elysian Fields, for among 
the Greeks the source of the Olympian nectar and 
ambrosia was to be sought in the Paradise on the 
Western Ocean. Food of life and water of life 
were found also in the Babylonian Paradise " at 
the mouth of the rivers," in Eridu and on the 
Island of the Blessed. We have already told how 
Gilgamesh obtained healing by means of the water 
of the fountain of life and of the magic food on 
the Island of the Blessed, and how he found the 
magic plant of immortality. Obviously also, the 
divine baker and cup-bearer has not, in the mind 
of the narrator, to do with common food and 
drink, but with the Babylonian equivalents of 



44 FOOD AND WATl'R OF LH'E 

nectar and aml)rosia. 'Flic plant of life also, is 
occasionally mentioned elsewhere. " Delicate as 
the plant of life may his royal shepherdhood be," 
says the Assyrian king Rammanirari III., and 
Asarhaddon expresses the wish " that his royal 
rule may be favourable to the well-being of man- 
kind, as is the plant of life." Frequent mention 
is made of the water of life, especially in the wor- 
ship of Ea and Marduk, and the story of Adapa 
shows that this water was used for drinking and 
not merely for sprinkling and lustration. In the 
"Journey of Istar through Hades" express men- 
tion is made of drinking the water of life at the 
despatching of Uddushunamir, the messenger of 
the gods : 

" Fapsukal, the servant of the great gods, bowed his 

face before [Samas], 
in mourning garb clothed, with hair (?) dishevelled. 
Samas stepped before Sin, his father, wee[ping], 
before Ea the king his tears to pour forth : 
Istar has gone down into the Underworld and has 

not returned thence." 

After he has told how all generation on earth 
has been suspended because of this journey in 
Hades, it continues : 

" Then Ea in the wisdom of his heart created a male 
being, 
cre-^ted Uddushunamir, the servant of the gods ; 



THE SACRED RIVERS 45 

" Hail ! Uddushunamir, turn thy face to the gate ot 

the land without return, 
the seven gates of the land without return, may 

they open be'ore thee, 
may Erishkigal see thee and welcome thee joyfully. 
When her heart shall be calmed and her spirit 

cheered, 
then conjure her in the name of the great gods. 
Raise thou thy heads high, turn thy thoughts to the 

place of the spring (?), (and say) : 
" Hail ! lady, may the spring (?) give me of its waters, 

thereof will I drink." ' " 

Later, indeed, when the desire of the messenger 
has perforce been granted, the goddess of Hades 
says to her servant Namtar, " Sprinkle the 
goddess Istar with the water of life and send her 
away." 

According to the exorcisms "holy water" was 
to be found "at the mouth of the rivers," i.e.^ at 
the entrance to the Island of the Blessed on the 
shores of which was also the fountain of healing. 
The Euphrates and Tigris themselves were con- 
sidered as sacred streams at the sources of which, 
as an historical inscription testifies, sacrifices were 
offered, and on the banks of which ceremonial 
ablutions were performed. Ea and his son Mar- 
duk were the lords of the water of life. At Ea's 
command the Underworld was forced to reveal 
its spring of the water of life, and elsewhere we 
read : " Go, my son Marduk, take the . . . one 



46 FOOD AND WATER OF LIFE 

. . . fetch water from the mouth of the two 
streams, into this water put thy pure spell, and 
consecrate it with thy pure spell, sprinkle [with 
the same water] man, the child of his god." 
Another passage runs : " Pure water [. . .], water 
of the Euphrates, that in the [. . .] place, water 
that is w^ell hidden in the ocean, the pure mouth 
of Ea has purified it, the sons of the deep, tiie 
seven, they have made the water pure, clear and 
sparkling." According to a ritual text edited for 
the Assyrian ro3^al worship the priest, clad in 
linen of Eridu, meets the king on the threshold 
of the " house of purification " and greets him in 
words that recall the blessing of Aaron ! 

" Ea make thee glad, 
Damkina, queen of the deep, illumine thee with her 

countenance, 
Marduk, the mighty overseer of the Igigi (heavenly 

spirits), exalt thy head." 

Then the priest continued : " Their deeds 
endure on earth who take the holy message of 
Ea for their guide ; the great gods of heaven 
come to his side, in the great sanctuaries of 
heaven and earth they come to his side ; those 
chambers are pure and shining; in Ea's clear and 
shining water bathe the Anunaki, the great gods 
themselves purify their faces in it." Side by side 
with Ea, his son Marduk has command of the 



CONCLUSION 47 

sacred water. In his temple was a holy fountain 
and frequent mention is made of Marduk's 
" vessel of purification," and of the " vessel of 
the decree of fate." This water may well have 
been represented at the great festival of the 
decree of fate, and it may be assumed that the 
vessel on wall sculptures and seal cylinders 
carried by winged genii to the tree of life repre- 
sents the vessel of the water of life, and the fruit 
of the tree the corresponding food of life. 



Conclusion. — Psychology of the Babylonian 
Conceptions of Hades. 

The Babylonian belief in a future life rested 
evidently in the first place on the conception ot 
the soul as an individual entity, which forsakes 
the body at death. The body was regarded as 
done with (this belief is indicated, as we have 
seen, by the very word for corpse, shalamtu, see 
page 31), when with the last breath the soul had 
forsaken it. The soul therefore is called napishtu 
— i.e., '* breath," and it is said of a ghost which 
has been conjured up that he rises "like a breath 
of wind " out of the earth (page 30). 

Among many peoples the conceptions of the 
world of the dead have been shaped according to 
the wishes and hopes raised in the minds of men 



48 CONCLUSION 

as they muse on their own death, and look for- 
ward to hfe in an imaginary world full of pleasures 
denied them by the wretchedness of their life 
on earth. But among the Babylonians, as also 
among the Hebrews and the Greeks, representa- 
tions of Hades reflect the melancholy thoughts 
roused in human souls by mourning for their 
dead. The soul of the dead sinks into a joyless 
existence, the misery of which has been fore- 
shadowed by the phenomena of mortal sicTcriess. 
The loss of a corporeal manifestation has already 
deprived it of all adornment and all e^xercise of 
the senses (page 9). Where is the scfiil ^o. be 
found? Simplicity sought it in the t^mb ; the 
shade of the dead man finds it hard to part from 
the body which gave him form and substance. 
Hence the corpse was embalmed, and food and 
drink were placed in the grave. But imagination 
followed the fate of the soul beyond the tomb 
into a world of its own, the entrance to which 
lay in the West, whither also the sun journeyed 
before sinking down into darkness, and which 
was depicted as a faded counterpart of the world 
of men. That the more primitive conception of 
the dwelling of the soul in the grave still held its 
ground is to be explained by the demands of 
ancestor worship. In this cult the tombs were 
the places of offering, and its influence was 
stronger than any demands of logic. 



DOCTRINE 01" RETRIBUTION 49 

Since to the Babylonians death and sojourn in 
Hades loomed as a dark fate indeed, there must 
soon have arisen in the soul of the people the 
thought that there might be distinctions in the 
fate of the dead, and retribution in the next world. 
It must also have appeared impossible that the 
ethical system of things taken for granted in 
Babylonian hymns and prayers should be entirely 
done away with beyond the tomb. Some traces 
of a doctrine of retribution are, as a matter of fact, 
to be found in the Babylonian representations of 
Hades. What is the goddess scribe of the Under- 
world writing as she stands bending before the 
goddess of Hades (p. 23)? What is the signifi- 
cance of the arrangements by which the strength 
of an unwelcome intruder was to be broken 
(p. 21) ? Why were the Anunaki set upon a 
golden throne when decision was to be made as 
to whether Istar should go free? Does it not 
seem as though they exercised judicial functions 
after the manner of the forty-two judges at the 
Judgment of Osiris ? In an exorcism on one of 
the Hades reliefs, mention is made of the " Judg- 
ment of the life of the great gods." The fact that 
individual favourites of the gods were removed to 
a happy life on some Island of the Blessed or 
elsewhere in the vicinity of the gods is no proof 
of a belief in the separation of good and evil after 
death, but it does testify that the Babylonians in 

D 



so CONCLUSION 

their meditations on death and the grave refused 
to give up all -nBvaTefjag fXiriSag, " sweeter hopes," 
and that they attributed to their gods a power 
over the fate of man's soul extending beyond the 
tomb. 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL APPENDIX. 

Alfred Jeremias, "Die Babylonisch-assyrischen Vorstel- 
lungen vom Leben nach dem Tode (mit Beriicksich- 
tigung der alttestamentlichen Parallelen)." Leipzig. 
J. C. Hinrichs(i887). 6-v. 

1\ Jensen, " Kosmologie der Babylonier." Strassburg 
( 1 890). 40s. 

Alfred Jeremias, article " Nergal" in Roscher''s Lexicoti 
der Mythologies \o\. iii. col. 250 et seq. 

Bruno Meissner, " Babylonisch Leichenfeierlichkeiten 
( JViener Zeitschr. f. d. Kiindc des Mors^ettlandes 
vol. xii. p. 59 et seq. 

Scheil, " Relief reprdsentant une scene fundraire bab)-- 
lonienne" {Kcctieil de Travaux rclatif a la Pliilologie 
et a V Arch'cologic egyptiennes et assyriejtiies, \ol. xx. 
p. 5. 

Messerschmidt, " Ein vergessenes Hades-Relief" {Orient- 
al istische Lit. Zeitimg, 1901, p. 175). 

F. Thureau-Dangin, " Inscription provenant d'un tombeau 
babylonien " {Orie?italistische Lit. Zeitung, 1901, p. 5). 

Schvvally, " Das Leben nach dem Tode nach den Vorstel- 
lungen des alten Israels." Giessen (1892). (A useful 
summary of purely Jewish ideas, but written without 
knowledge of, or reference to, the Babylonian 
evidence.) 5^. 



5- )5IHU0GRAPHICAL APPENDIX 

iM-ey, Jobs. I'od, " Seelenglaube und Seelenkult im alten 
Israel." Leipzig (1898). (Makes no use of Baby- 
Ionian evidence.) 4s. 

The translations of the Gilgamesh (Ninirod) epos by 
Alfred Jeremias: " Izdubar-Ninirud," Leipzig, 1891 U/. 
also his articles "Ishtar," " Izdubar," in Roscher's "Lexi- 
con"), and P. Jensen, Keilnischriftlkhe Bihliothek, Bd. vi. 
"Die alt-babylonische Epen und Mythen"may also be 
consulted. See also the articles " Creation," " Deluge " 
" Eschatology," " Nimrod," and " Paradise," in the " Ency- 
clopedia Biblica," edited by the Rev. Dr. Cheyne and 
J. S. Black, and in Rev. Dr. J. Hastings' "Dictionary 
of the Bible." ^ 



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